BACK IN JUNE 2010, Eoin Cadogan faced the media in advance of Cork’s Munster hurling semi-final against Limerick.
Cadogan’s commitment to both Cork’s football and hurling squads meant the burning topic for discussion was obvious.
The Douglas clubman was serving two masters in the GAA and was the figurehead for the dying breed of the dual star.
Thus he was predictably peppered with questions about how he was coping with the demands.
At one juncture, he laughed and informed the assembled media, ‘To be honest, ye think about it way too much compared to me!’
That was the crux of the matter. There may have been plenty time given by others to the debating the subject but Cadogan’s approach from the outset of 2010 was to treat each training session and game on its own merits, irrespective of what sport it was. That philosophy served him well.
The open lines of communication between the Cork hurling managers, Denis Walsh (former) and Jimmy Barry-Murphy (current), and their football counterpart Conor Counihan facilitated Cadogan’s dual mandate. And for the past three seasons it has worked.
Yet it was inevitable that a day would come when a hard call would have to be made. The Rebel grapevine had hummed with rumours in recent weeks that Cadogan was starting to lean towards throwing his lot in solely with the footballers for the 2013 season. On Saturday night, he confirmed that was indeed the case.
Since 2010, Cadogan made a remarkable effort to ply his trade in both codes. The Cork senior sides in the last three years have played, between league and championship, 79 games (42 football and 37 hurling). Cadogan has appeared in 56 of those (27 football and 29 hurling) which gives him a 71% appearance rate. Indeed only four of those appearances by Cadogan were as a substitute.
It’s also important to factor in that he was sidelined for a time in the spring of 2010 with a stress fracture of his foot and that year he appeared in under half of Cork’s football games.
For example Cadogan may have made his football championship debut for Cork in the 2007 All-Ireland semi-final against Meath but it was not until the 2010 decider against Down that he made his first football championship start.
Since then his role has been stepped up to have a 77% appearance rate for Counihan’s side in 2011 and 2012.
Cork’s Eoin Cadogan in action in the McGrath Cup last Sunday. Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan.
Cadogan turns 27 next September and is entering a crucial phase in his career. He has established himself in the inter-county game at this stage, growing accustomed to the physical, mental and skills demands that are required to impact on those big Croke Park afternoons in late summer.
Last year’s All-Ireland champions Donegal and Kilkenny proved that the bar has been raised considerably in their respective codes. Thus a huge investment of time and effort is needed for either Cork side to bridge that gap in order to become All-Ireland victors. Logically Cadogan had to make a choice to extract the most out of himself.
Choosing the footballers flies in the race of Cork GAA tradition but it is not unsurprising. It must have been a difficult decision yet after all the talk of honour in representing your county, GAA players are ultimately no different to other sports competitors. Attaining silverware is their raison d’etre and right now the Cork footballers are a safer bet in that regard.
It’s only two years since they won an All-Ireland title and are set to jostle for top spot again in 2013. In contrast the Cork hurlers last lifted the All-Ireland in 2005 and have slipped behind the recent standards set by Kilkenny, Tipperary and Galway.
Bookmakers odds are not always a reliable barometer yet there is a reason that currently for 2013, Cork are on offer at 7/2 to win Sam Maguire and 14/1 to win Liam McCarthy.
It is certainly a major setback for the Cork hurlers. The winter has seen them stripped of other assets with Darren Sweetnam having signed for Munster and Damien Cahalane also switching to the Cork footballers. In an era where physique is paramount in hurling, the pain of the loss of that trio is more acute.
For the Cork footballers, it is a boost to their ambitions of clawing their way back to the top. Cadogan has become a cornerstone of their defence, encapsulated by the job he did policing Donegal’s Michael Murphy last August. His full-time availability and the addition of Cahalane increases the options available to Counihan for a rearguard that needs some refinement this year.
Yesterday he made his 2013 competitive bow, running out onto Páirc Uí Rinn after returning from a sojourn in Australia. Defeat may have been Cork’s lot against Tipperary but the McGrath Cup is a warm-up for the bigger challenges ahead.
For Cadogan himself a decision had to be made, despite the disappointment it will generate in some quarters.
And there must be some relief to now have a single focus. The 2013 season dawns ahead of him.